Saturday, October 18, 2014

Just when I thought Singapore Airlines couldn't get any more wonderful...

I know it's been a little while since my last post; in truth, this semester has been pretty crazy (in a good way). I'm teaching four classes with a total of 220 students (I did the math on the number of assessments I'd grade by the end of the semester and came up with 2,648. Some things you're better off not knowing!). I'm enjoying every crazy minute, but it leaves little time for other things.

I have been meaning to write about this story for a while, though, so I will tell you about an amazing experience I had flying home for the 8 day break between the end of the summer session and the beginning of the fall.

As you know from previous posts, I always fly Singapore Airlines, because even in Economy, the flight experience is second to none. Good meals, complementary beverages ("More wine?" "Why, don't mind if I do!") and tons of movies and TV shows to choose from. If I sound like I'm writing an advertisement, ask anyone who's ever heard me talk about SIA - I always sound this way.

Anyway, I had just started my journey and flew from Singapore to Hong Kong. I got off the plane for the mandatory customs check, and was getting back on the plane when something bizarre happened. I handed my boarding pass to the gate attendant, who glanced at a screen, and tore my ticket in half. I felt my eyes widen and I was just drawing a breath to ask what had just happened to me, when she handed me a different ticket and said, "Have a nice flight!"

"Thank you...?"

I took the ticket and started walking down the boarding gate when I stopped dead in my tracks (nearly causing a passenger-and-luggage pileup behind me). On the ticket was printed "Dr. Amanda Lohiser" - but it was a different color.

It was blue. Blue, I was to discover, was the color of joy.

The Golden Blue Ticket
Blue meant Business. I walked to the seat number that had been assigned to me, and it was, sure enough, in Business class. The chair was wide and plush. And there was a place to put my feet up! A little ledge that held my feet. At this point, I was holding on to my ticket with a death grip, waiting at any moment to be told there had been a mistake, but when I hesitantly called a flight attendant over to ask if this was, indeed, my seat, she smiled and said, "Yes! I guess you're lucky!"

OMG. 'Lucky?' Blessed, more like. This was a gift, you see, a gift from the Travel Gods that every frequent flyer dreams of but never hopes to achieve. I had been upgraded.

So, maybe I am crying a little bit.
I tried taking pictures, but to be honest, it was dark in the cabin and I didn't want to be completely obnoxious by turning on lights and standing in the aisle to take a million pictures (there was, also, a mien of "calm and cool" that I was trying really hard to maintain, despite the fact that I thought I might weep with joy at any minute).

So what's so great about Business?

I have to say first and foremost was the fact that sitting in the seat meant I could put my feet up. As someone with severe vascular problems in my legs, long flights are pretty painful (and yes, I've tried the stockings, and no, they don't work for me). Usually about halfway through the flight, I have to ask for some ice in a bag and try to somewhat curl my legs up in a way that they're elevated a little - pretty impossible to do in Economy. But in business? I stretched right out. I had zero pain that flight. That itself was without question, the best part.

I'm sorry the pic doesn't do it justice.
The second best part happened when a flight attendant walked by and asked "Would you like us to convert your seat into a bed?"

At first I smiled because I honestly thought she was joking - like she was going to whip out a wand, Hogwarts-style, and POOF, transfigure my seat into a bed.

And then I realized that that's basically exactly what happened, only without a wand. When she was done shifting and flipping and tugging straps and fixing blankets, she stepped away, and there was a cot. An honest-to-goodness, lay-down-and-curl-up cot with plush pillows and a soft, fluffy comforter. My tummy full of good food (more on that in a sec) I lay down, and for the first time in my life as a passenger on an airplane, I slept. I didn't just sleep, I passed out for 6 hours. That was the second-best part. No pain, and I arrived at my destination actually feeling rested and ready to jump into my day.

Oh, and did I mention the food yet?

This is the part I have some pics of. I had salad, I had fruit. I had veal and pasta, I had chocolate mousse. I had French wine and I had a cheese plate (a cheese plate!) and I had a 10-year-aged tawny port that did actually did bring tears to my eyes. It was absolutely lovely.

The entire experience was the best 14 hours I've ever spent on a plane, and I am grateful I got to have the experience. It came at the right time, as I had been feeling a bit blue about being away from home - don't get me wrong, I felt lucky to be going home for a few days, but in the back of my mind remained the greedy reality that I'd be picking back up and leaving again - missing home, missing my family, missing my friends. And then I got this 14-hour gift. This reprieve full of comfort and luxury. It was a blessing.

Now, here's the thing. It's not as if traveling economy in Singapore Airlines is like a horribly disappointing experience after this. The food is still very tasty; although admittedly not the variety that you're getting in business, it's still really good, and runs (flies?) circles around the "food" I've gotten in Economy on other long-haul flights (*cough*airline-that-breaks-guitars*cough*) and you're still getting the same movies and TV and comforts like a complementary blanket and pillow. In fact, when I describe my experience flying Economy on SIA, people in the States assume I'm flying Business ("But you said 'complementary wine!' You said 'ice cream!' You said '200 movies!'" "Yes, yes I did...") As I said, the biggest joy for me was the fact that I could stretch my legs out, and the fact that I could sleep.

And did I mention there was a cheese plate and a tawny port?

All in all, a fabulous experience, and I thank the Travel Gods (and Singapore Airlines) for the gift!


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